A way with words

Lakshan Wanniarachchi having represented Sri Lanka at the World Scrabble Championships speaks to Shaveen Jeewandara of his experience

They say that a man may be made of many words, but it’s the actions that count, however sometimes the words do speak out for the actions. On such a note we meet a youngster who has taken on the world with words, at the 11th World Scrabble Championships, held in Poland, this October.

Lakshan Wanniarachchi, an old boy of S. Thomas’ College Mt. Lavinia, ranked 78th out of a 106 participants. As the sole representative of Sri Lanka this is quite an achievement. “Being able to participate in this competition in itself was a huge achievement, and I managed go head to head with some of the best ranked players” Lakshan tells us.

Scrabble although much embraced by the western world, is still in it’s budding years at the hands of our youth. As seen by many to be ‘not just a sport’, Scrabble has the ability to help share the knowledge of the English language, which is a must in today’s geopolitical arena. As Sri Lanka realizes the growing importance of English, a game like scrabble may just be the solution. “Poland was my 6th international outing but it was the biggest challenge so far, there was worldwide representation including some of the Asian giants such as India, Malaysia and Japan”, Lakshan adds.

“I missed out winning one particular game and it blew my chances of getting into the Top 50” Having won 16 out of 34 games, another single win would have placed Lakshan amongst the Top 50 contestants, and it would have been a success beyond words itself. Although Lakshan is proud of his feats at the World Championships, battling out the wits with remarkably talented international players for over 4 days. Nigel Richards of New Zealand emerged Champion, winning the title for the second time, having previously done so in 2007, while Andrew Fisher of Australia was Runner Up. Lakshan is a pioneer in the game back at home , and is currently the No. 1 ranked player.

Lakshan has retained his ranking for the last decade and was the automatic choice when it came to International representation. There are many national leagues that help budding and expert scrabble players to challenge themselves, but the correct amount of exposure is not given to the game at present.

The Scrabbler of The Year (SOY), is a series of tournaments organized by the Sri Lanka Scrabble League (SLSL) and played in 5 legs of 18 games each. Current members of the SLSL are eligible to play this tournament. Lakshan, won the overall SOY for the 9th consecutive year, by winning the 4 legs he competed in and accumulating a total of 100 pts.

At the World Championships, Lakshan managed to beat players from France, Japan, Canada and even the USA, with the Highest Score being 566 with an average of 422 points. “I was lucky to have made it to the International Arena, and I hope to return next year with the primary intention of making it to the Top 50, and work towards the ultimate championship”, Lakshan says with a strong sense of determination in mind.

Although there are many Local Tournaments currently underway, and the Sri Lanka Scrabble League taking measures to maintain it’s good work with promoting Scrabble, Lakshan calls for more awareness on the game and is willing to promote the game at the grassroots level, hoping to create a fortitude of Scrabble players who will lead the country forward.

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